The Ghana Health Service has issued an alert for Lassa Fever after declaration by the Ministry of Health in Nigeria of the outbreak of the disease which has so far affected about 18 states with over 300 cases and 31 deaths.
The outbreak has been on-going for the past six weeks and has necessitated urgent spontaneous national response actions among all neighbouring countries including Ghana.
Lassa fever is an Acute Viral Haemorrhagic Fever illness which is endemic in the West Africa particularly in Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, parts of Nigeria, and other West African countries as well. Ghana recorded first confirmed case(s) in 2011 and two districts, one each in Ashanti and Eastern regions then confirmed outbreaks of Lassa fever.
The disease often has a gradual onset, with non-specific signs and symptoms and commonly presents with fever, general weakness and malaise at the early stages. After a few days, headache, sore throat, muscle pain, chest pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain may follow. However, about 80 % of Lassa Fever infections are mild or asymptomatic.
Lassa fever virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with the urine, saliva faeces, and blood of the rodent (Multi-mammate rat).
Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in hospitals lacking adequate infection prevent and control measures.
The Ghana Health Service is therefore urging all health workers in the respective Regions, Districts and Hospitals, including the Mission and Private Facilities to initiate process to create public awareness on Lassa Fever. So far in Nigeria, the current outbreak has affected health workers in some states.
GHS has therefore issued the following recommendations to all health workers and institutions in a statement signed by Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of Ghana Health Service to all Regional Directors of Health Services and CEOs of Teaching Hospitals
|Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Director General of GHS|
- Surveillance on Lassa fever and Acute Haemorrhagic Fevers in general (using case definitions) should be enhanced.
- Suspected cases of Lassa fever should be managed in specific isolation conditions
- Health workers should adhere to regular Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures to prevent and protect against possible nosocomial transmission
- Blood sample from suspected case(s) should be taken and safely packaged and sent to Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) for laboratory investigations
- All levels (National, Regions, Districts and Facilities) are requested to update their preparedness and response plans for Lassa fever and VHF in general, sensitize the respective staff and create necessary public awareness.